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Old 01-18-2013, 02:27 AM   #1 
Sparrowhawk's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Perhaps a really stupid question, but...

I've just read all of the stickies on cycling, and while it's been made clear that a cycle is difficult to establish and keep stable in tanks smaller than 5 gallons, it doesn't seem impossible, especially with live plants.

I've got 3 tanks, all 3.9 gallons, currently unfiltered but with several live plants in each. I'm planning to do a huge upgrade/overhaul in the next couple of months, adding loads more plants and generally changing things up and hopefully creating a much more pleasant environment for my fish.

I've seen a lot of hype about sponge filters on here, and thought I'd ask if it's worth attempting to cycle my tanks with one of those, as I think even Falkor could handle the flow of one of those (he couldn't handle either of the two low-flow filters I had tried when I first got him and was fairly clueless about fishkeeping).

It'd be nice to know if it's worth trying before doing this big overhaul, as if it's possible I'd purchase gravel in addition to the things I'm already going to be putting in there... The plants I'll have in there aren't huge ammonia sinks, being predominantly crypts and a couple of different anubias varieties due to my lighting, but I will have a fair bit of water sprite (more than the little I have in each tank at the moment) which I hear is great for water quality.

Unfortunately due to space and financial limitations I cannot upgrade to 5 gallons for each boy, what I have is just about all my furniture and cramped living quarters can handle. If we hadn't been given two bettas as a surprise, I probably could've upgraded Falkor's tank, but as it is this is what I've got to work with...

So, any success/horror stories about attempting to cycle tanks of this size? I'm very interested to hear any points not brought up by the stickies, as I'd like to make as informed a decision as possible for the benefit of my fish.
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Old 01-18-2013, 09:34 AM   #2 
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Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Third Planet From The Sun
Do you have a water test kit? If not, that should be the first thing you purchase if you want to go the cycling route as you'll need to test on a daily basis to make sure params are in check. If you have plenty of plants in your tank, you should be fine with the fish in cycle. After reading OFL's stickie on the Nitrogen cycle, there really isn't anything difficult with having a fish-in cycle. OFL's post removed all the "mystery" of cycling a tank for me and I never looked back. When I first started out I had Doctor Z in a 1.5g tank with some plants and I did have that cycled for the entire time he was in there (4 or 5 months). At that time, I had another betta in an 8 gallong tank, but he fell ill and passed away, so after cleaning, I moved the good Dr over.

Going back to the small tank - I tested the water on a daily basis and this helped me out. I did everything possible to baffle the filter on that tank and got it down to where the flow inside the tank was almost non-existant. My betta was happy as can be and did not show any signs of struggling against any current. My recommendation would be to just baffle the filters you have until you get the flow the way you want it. I don't see any reason to have to go out and buy or make a new filter just for this purpose if you have working ones.

Good luck!
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Old 01-18-2013, 01:54 PM   #3 
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Location: Baton Rouge Louisiana
I see you say your current tanks are unfiltered. Both my 5 and my 2.5 are filtered and cycled. Sponge filters are definately the way to go in anything less than 5. IMO&E....there is no reason for treating a betta differently than any other tropical fish when it comes to this. IMO&E....the benefits far outweigh any risks. I.E. a more stable enviroment, less stress cause you don't have to move the fish every couple of days for water changes, more stability to the water.

Notice I keep saying In My Opinion & Experiance? (there are some that will see this and claim I am Hitler running death camps for bettas cause I am not doing it their way)

Anyway, I do once a week 50% changes in both and my buddies are happy as can be, water tests at 0 and clear as a bell.
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Old 01-18-2013, 07:29 PM   #4 
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Location: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted by DiiQue View Post
Do you have a water test kit? If not, that should be the first thing you purchase if you want to go the cycling route as you'll need to test on a daily basis to make sure params are in check.
Yep, I've got the API liquid test kit. I tend to test more often than I really need to given that I've settled into a water change schedule that works for keeping everything nice and clean, but that - I don't know what to call it - paranoia about water parameters I guess? It'll be good when trying to cycle 'cause I'll be obsessively checking it daily.

Thank you both about the great advice given, it's given me a lot more confidence about the process.

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Old 01-18-2013, 07:49 PM   #5 
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Join Date: May 2011
Location: California

Here is a cycled 2 gallon without a filter. It has been up and running for over a year now. The number 1 important factor in setting up this tank was lighting and some fast growing plants. With the right lighting it pretty much did itself. Though I have added a few plants over time. Notably some duckweed and a banana plant.
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Old 01-20-2013, 10:36 PM   #6 
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Join Date: Jun 2011
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That is a pretty bowl, Kyt. Although, without circulation and aeration, nitrifying bacteria is not consuming the ammonia. The plants are. So, technically, it's a NPT...natural planted tank.

On the subject of small cycled tanks: Many of us are running stable, established, cycled tanks in the 2.3g/3g range. As mentioned, sponge filters are ideal for this setup. At least they work great for my 3gals.
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Old 01-20-2013, 10:51 PM   #7 
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Awesome, thank you.
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